A Rebuttal: Admissions is Not a Demotion

Nicole Baron (new to #EMchat, so follow!) tweeted an article she came across on the Student Affairs Collective that sparked a great conversation about what it means to work in college admissions, but more importantly, that we’re lacking a clear definition (outside of the admissions space) on what enrollment management means.

This article is the third or fourth example of a misconception about the functional area  of enrollment management that I’ve seen over the last few months. And so, I though what better place to talk about what enrollment management is than EMchat.


It’s good to see that I wasn’t the only person offended. Neither was Sara:

I first became interested in admissions when I was a student employee at Salisbury University. I had some great mentors who opened my eyes to the world of recruitment and I fell in love with the industry. It wasn’t until graduate school that I realized that admissions was actually just a piece of something greater, enrollment management. I think that this 2006 (yes, 2006) article by Kathy Kurz and Jim Scannell sums it up pretty well and is one I point people to when they ask that “What Is” question. To grab a quick snippet:

[Enrollment management] is a process that brings together often disparate functions having to do with recruiting, funding, tracking, retaining, and replacing students as they move toward, within, and away from institutions.

Recruiting. Funding. Tracking. Retaining. In my mind, these are the four pillars of enrollment management. Sure, each is made up of other functions like marketing, communications, research, government, etc. But, for the purpose of this post, let’s stick with these four.

This definition is necessary because the author of the article Nicole shared effectively silos these functional areas from one another. The relationships here, however, are symbiotic; one simply cannot exist without the other. And I write this post today as a rebuttal to many of the points mentioned in that article. Namely (with a little help from my friends):

1.     “Where are all of the advisor positions?”

Turnover in admissions is high. That’s a fact. It’s the 2 or 20 rule and burnout is real. It’s not that the advisor positions aren’t out there…it’s that there are just more admissions roles that need replacing.

2. “Retention has been the buzzword lately.”

Retention is an integral part of the enrollment management equation. Admissions officers are keenly aware of this and recruit students for that beautiful “fit” we so often talk about. Poor recruitment and poor fit makes for poor retention. It’s not a buzzword. It’s a real thing. It’s a part of enrollment management. Buzzwords imply trendiness. Retention is not trendy. Cool and important and fun to talk about—totally. Trendy? Not so much.

Also, this:

3.     “After all, isn’t it about retention anyway—keeping the student happy in college from start to end when they graduate on time?”

No, it’s not all about retention. And as previously stated in #2, it is the job of the recruitment team to effectively build a class of students who will succeed. This class is then supported by all of the wonderful academic advisors and structures in place to ensure they reach that end goal. Again, a symbiotic relationship.

And…academic advisors aren’t the only ones out there building and maintaining relationships.

4.     “I can see from my job search that colleges are a business and want as much incoming profit as possible.”

(The next statement is solely mine and is not representative of the views of this greater EMchat community!) – Colleges are businesses. Higher education is an industry. But I think the best rebuttal here is really just this:

followed by this:

This, too:

I would add on that institutions need money to operate. But just because that’s the case doesn’t mean that recruiters have only this interest in their minds. Admissions pros are genuinely interested in the success of the students they recruit.

But it’s not just about the money if you haven’t gotten that point already. See?

5.     “If they hire more academic advisors…these students would stay and graduate from college!”

It’s unfair to readers and to students to put forth an argument that more staff (even though, technically many schools have more academic support staff than recruiters) are the answer to students staying in college. If the student is a bad fit, the student is a bad fit. Please see tweets from argument 3.

But, let’s definitely not forget…

6.     “After all, many of us working in higher education want to grow in our positions. We don’t want to be demoted and apply for admissions positions.”


7.     “Personally, I didn’t receive a masters degree in counseling in higher education just to apply for admission recruiter positions.”

*Shocked whistle* – Whoa. I will read anything. I will engage anyone in debate. I will question, I will listen, and I will lose an argument if it means I’ve gained new insight. But when an article or an argument shifts from debating a concept or an idea to attacking an individual or role, it ceases to be an argument.

Working in admissions is not a demotion. The satisfaction I receive from working with admission offices and officers is the reason I do what I do every day. And I have the opportunity to engage with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met because of that. While EMchat is designed to be inclusive of all enrollment management pros (this includes admissions, financial aid, marketing, academic advising and success, institutional research, etc.), a large portion of this community is certainly admissions-centric. They are thought leaders, innovators, change agents, and individuals dedicated to assisting high school students navigate one of the most difficult and important decisions of their lives.

Here are some thoughts on these statements:

Additionally, a degree is not a guarantee of a job. Not even an advanced degree. I get it—the job market is tough. Higher education is tough. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes they do. The path to getting where you want to be may not always be what you envisioned, but knocking others (intentionally or unintentionally, because it’s difficult to tell from the post) is not the way to get there.

Thoughts and recommendations:

8.     “I do not want to look at [students] as numbers and money. I’m not interested in letting go of their hand after the admissions process is done with them, as I recruit another student.

Mic drop:

9.     “Don’t get me wrong, being an admissions rep is a great position too.”

After all of the above…thanks?

While it’s abundantly clear that I heavily disagree with pretty much everything in this article, the author succeeded in one thing…sparking an incredibly intense, thoughtful, passionate conversation about what it means to be an admissions pro.

We are all on the same team. We all have the same goals and play important but different roles in helping students achieve theirs. As professionals and as people, we all need to show a little more respect for the career choices and aspirations of others.

And, we all work in higher education…so let’s agree to never stop learning.

Particularly before we write.


[I provided a small part of the conversation centered around this particular post. I would encourage you, if you’re interested, to check out the various threads on Twitter and add your own voice to this conversation. Since this post was drafted, there have been some great additions to the conversation.  Thanks to everyone who put a tweet out there and in the spirit of social media and the free sharing of ideas, I hope you don’t mind the embedded tweets – I thought they were too awesome to leave out!]

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